July 23, 2013 at 9:19 AM ET
This morning, a 57-year-old deaf woman heard her baby granddaughter's laugh for the very first time.
Sarah Campbell, of Norristown, Pa., allowed TODAY to be a part of the indescribable moment when her cochlear implant was activated, live on the show this morning. Campbell and her doctor, friends and family were all together as the audiologist activated the implant for the first time.
The audiologist, Michelle Montes, asked Campbell to talk about what she was hearing. Was she hearing anything at all?
"It's noise ... noise," Campbell said at first. "I'm hearing you. It's very low. I'm even hearing me! I'm hearing me talk."
And then Campbell's 1-year-old granddaughter piped up, gurgling and giggling -- and Campbell heard it. "I'm hearing her! Woo! Baby! She was laughing, I think," Campbell said.
Earlier, Campbell told TODAY that she loves watching the birds in her garden, and she's always wondered what one might sound like. She says has never been able to hear music or the sounds of nature.
"You know, the creaks in your house, the baby crying -- different sounds that you take for granted, and I've never heard 'em," Campbell says. She speaks so clearly it might be surprising, but she told TODAY she is an excellent lip reader, and added that, "I just bluff my way through the day."
Campbell has used hearing aids throughout her life, which gave her some hearing and allowed her to get through school. But over the last five years, the hearing loss has progressed, and the hearing aids no longer work. Campbell is a special education teacher, a job she loves -- and it became harder and harder to work with her students or to have conversations at school with other teachers, something that she says was beginning to make her feel "very isolated, very alone."
"So, I zone out and go into my own little world," Campbell says.
So three weeks ago, Campbell had cochlear implant surgery at the University of Pennsylvania to try to restore some of her hearing. Cochlear implants are made up of two parts: a receiver and a stimulator, which are placed in the bone and inner ear. A magnetic transmitter is worn on the outside, which contains a microphone and speech processor.
"Do I expect miracles? No. But I just want to hear better," Campbell says.